Wednesday, 19 June 2013
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|First Test at The Oval ... COOK PUTS ENGLAND IN COMMAND WITH 20TH TEST CENTURY|
|Thursday, 19 July 2012 21:24|
A MASTERFUL unbeaten century from Alastair Cook saw England establish a strong position at 267 for three on day one of the first Test against South Africa at The Oval.
Cook compiled 114 runs in an unerring innings as he and Jonathan Trott, who scored 71, provided a solid platform for the hosts after Andrew Strauss fell for a duck with the fourth ball of the day. It was a typically composed knock from the 27-year-old, who reached his 20th Test century to the delight of the Oval crowd and steered his side to stumps alongside Ian Bell (10) after Kevin Pietersen had weighed in with 42.
The hosts are seeking to hold on to their top ranking in Test cricket, with South Africa able to usurp their opponents if they win the three-match series.
England came into the series boasting a record of seven successive series victories at home, and Strauss was delighted to win the toss – which was delayed by 15 minutes - and make first use of a dry, slow deck, with Graeme Smith conceding he would have made the same decision.
The England captain was not happy for long, however, as he was trapped lbw – albeit after the initial decision from umpire Steve Davis had been successfully reviewed – by Morne Morkel as the big paceman struck with the fourth ball of the match.
It was a hugely frustrating way for Strauss to go after he failed to move his feet with Morkel sliding the ball into the pads from round the wicket, and it immediately put his side under the cosh.
With the onus on Cook and Trott to rebuild, South Africa’s bowlers kept the pressure on with both batsmen forced to work extremely hard for their runs early on, but gradually the pair were able to settle at the crease.
The seemingly indomitable duo both reached their half-centuries in the afternoon session as they vindicated their captain’s decision to bat first under leaden skies, and Cook even managed to hook Steyn – the top-ranked Test bowler in the world – for six over midwicket.
The pair, who have previously batted for long periods of time together, having added an unbeaten 329 in Brisbane against Australia in 2010 and 251 against Sri Lanka in 2011, continued to build slowly but surely throughout the afternoon as the tourists were left frustrated after their early breakthrough.
After having established a partnership of 169, Trott was eventually dismissed for 71 by Morkel, who claimed his second wicket with AB de Villiers – standing in behind the stumps for the now retired Mark Boucher – completing the dismissal with a comfortable catch.
But having a new batsman at the crease did nothing to assist the tourists’ much vaunted bowling attack, and Pietersen was quick to settle at the crease and form another partnership with the unwavering Cook.
The England opener brought up his century in typically nerveless fashion, and the delight was palpable as he celebrated his first three-figure score in Tests since his 294 against India last August.
Four boundaries saw Pietersen quickly move to 40, but his innings was ended abruptly as all-rounder Jacques Kallis had the England number four caught behind with de Villiers again doing the honours.
With South Africa taking the second new ball in the final session, England may have contemplated employing a nightwatchman to protect Ian Bell, but the England number five came out to partner Cook.
The Warwickshire man was not to be lured into playing a rash stroke, and he represented an assured presence at the crease as he accompanied the centurion to the close of play.
It was a hugely encouraging day for England with Cook having given the hosts an ideal platform on a pitch which shows signs of assisting spinner Graeme Swann throughout with some prodigious turn on offer for Imran Tahir.
England will look to build a formidable total on day two with South Africa having to quickly regroup and take quick wickets in the morning.
It was very much one man’s day, however, with Cook unbeaten overnight after having faced 283 balls and bringing up his 20th Test ton. It is a remarkable feat for the 27-year-old, who continues to distinguish himself. (Eurosport)
ENGLAND first innings
A. Strauss lbw b Morkel 0
A. Cook not out 114
J. Trott c de Villiers b Morkel 71
KP Pietersen c de Villiers b Kallis 42
I. Bell not out 10
Extras: (b- 2, lb-16, w- 2, nb-10) 30
Total: (for 3 wickets, off 90 overs) 267
Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-170, 3-251.
Bowling: Morkel 18-2-44-2 (nb-3, w-1), Philander 16-2-48-0 (nb-5), Steyn 21-5-62-0, Kallis 14-3-34-1 (w-1), Tahir 15-0-51-0 (nb-2), Duminy 6-1-10-0
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